In some cases, getting a visa is a waiting game, as many applicants need to wait for a visa to become available before they are granted a visa. This is because the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) places a cap on the number of immigration visas available to green card seekers each year. In addition, there are caps placed on many other non-immigration visas, including the H1-B visa and others. Some non-immigrant visas, such as the B-1 and B-2 visitor visas, for example, do not have any caps placed upon them, which means that anyone who qualifies may be able to get this type of visa. If you are applying for a green card, however, there are limits in the place and this can mean that the wait for your visa can be very long – in some cases taking many years.
The agency tasked with overseeing visa numbers if the US Department of State. Currently, the agency limits green cards for family-sponsored preference categories to 226 000 a year. The number of employment-based preference immigration visas available each year is 140 000. In addition, to these caps, there are also caps in place per country of origin. This means that if you come from a country with a high rate of immigration to the US your wait may be longer.
If you are an immediate relative of a US citizen, you will not need to deal with caps, as there is an unlimited number of green cards available for this category. This means that if you are a spouse of a US citizen, an unmarried child (under the age of 21) of a US citizen, or a parent of a US citizen your wait will typically much shorter than someone in another family category.
Since there are typically more green card applicants than visas available, a waiting list system has been developed. Once you are approved for a green card in a category that has a cap on the number of green cards available, the Department of State will provide you with a visa number. Visa availability will depend on your priority date and the preference category you are in. Your priority date will decide your place in the queue for a green card. When the date is current, you will be able to apply for a green card.
The amount of time you will need to wait to get a green card will depend on your country of origin, the demand for green cards when you apply, and the number of green cards allowed in your specific category. In cases where there is a huge demand for a specific country or visa category, the Visa Office will place a cut-off date for the country of category. In these cases, visas will only be available to those who have a priority date before the cut-off date.